Friday, August 19, 2011

The Introduction

I’d like to start off by saying that these are opinions based on sporting facts.  I will not be confined to rugby commentary but will rather look at sport holistically.  My utterances should be viewed as humble opinions that shouldn’t be taken to heart.  They say “the truth hurts,” so if anyone is offended by what they read I plea you keep this in mind. 

Formalities aside, today I talk rugby.  With the 7th Rugby World Cup less then a month away, these are truly exciting times for the rugby fan.  This blog is written through the eyes of a ground level rugby fan with the aspiration of being heard.  Whether you agree or disagree lets have an open discussion on our country’s interesting rugby landscape.
We are living in a controversial period in SA rugby history where the term transformation is on everybody’s lips.  People want to see the game move forward in a positive way.  Do not however misconstrue my statement on transformation, as it does not mean that I want to see a Springbok team dominated by black players from 1 to 15, but rather a team that shows true representation of our country’s rugby talent.
I was schooled at one of Eastern Capes oldest and finest boys’ institutions, which taught me to differentiate between quality and rubbish.  The South African rugby fan has been fortunate in the past 7 years or so to be exposed to quality rugby, but what 2011 is currently dishing up for us I’m afraid is utter rubbish.
 I had a phone conversation with a very good friend of mine after the first Tri-Nations test match the Boks played against the Wallabies and the first thing he said was, what has PDV been doing for the past 4 years in terms of coaching?  I started thinking to myself, other than the obvious improvement the Stormers show in defence, what have our stalwart Bok players been doing for the past 4 years that such a team (2007 RWC champions) find themselves in their current predicament.

When PDV was appointed Springbok coach in what seems like centuries ago, I couldn’t hide my excitement.  Here’s a guy who promised growth and progression from what Jake White had built, what an amazing period to look forward to I thought.  Was I wrong!!!  Instead he has copied and pasted Jake Whites team sheet, bar Beast and Heinrich, it’s exactly the same team.  Has he not learnt from those who have tried it before? Australia won the world cup in ’91 and sent the same team to South Africa in ’95 and got embarrassed by, guess who, the Boks.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  These words I’m afraid are ringing in my ears and the closer the Rugby World Cup, the louder they ring.  Rugby has evolved since 2007 and all I am asking is whether the Springboks have moved forward or backwards from their infamous “skop en jag” game plan?  I’m afraid not. 
Australia and New Zealand have introduced intelligent dummy runners and situations where positive decision making will equate to gain line success; we however are still stuck in set piece battles that only guarantee us with ball possession that we have no idea how to use.  Our phase play is horrendous to say the least.  We rely on a kicking game that requires our defence error rate to be minimal.  This worked for a while but the top teams have evolved thus relegating our beloved Springboks to “one trick pony” status.

With this said, we are talking about a team that is chasing 900 caps as a collective and the Rugby World Cup is won by the team that makes the least mistakes, the team that concedes the least penalties and the team that converts pressure to points.  Lets hope all this experience counts in our favour in making history and retaining the much sought after William Webb Ellis trophy.

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